A hunter in Canada killed one of three young bears that were relocated to northern New Hampshire after the governor stepped in to save their lives.
The state’s Fish and Game department had planned to euthanize the black bears and their mother in May after repeated problems with them feasting on trash and bird feeders culminated with two of them entering a home near Dartmouth College. Several children were in the home at the time, but no one was injured.
Officials argued the plan was necessary because the animals were no longer afraid of humans, and would likely find new neighborhoods to frequent if moved. But Gov. Chris Sununu, a first-term Republican, instead ordered them relocated after public outcry.
Andrew Timmins, the state’s bear project leader, said he got a call from the hunter in Quebec on June 17, about three weeks after the three juvenile bears were trapped in Hanover, tagged and moved. He received confirmation from his Canadian counterpart on Wednesday that the bear had traveled into Canada and was killed as part of the country’s spring bear hunt season.
“I wasn’t surprised in the least,” Timmins told The Associated Press.
The bear’s death was first reported by the Valley News.
Timmins said he also wouldn’t be surprised if the other two yearlings meet the same fate, though that may never be known because some hunters engage in what he called “shoot, shovel, shut up” and don’t report their take.
“The fact that all three didn’t immediately become issues somewhere suggest that moving them was at least worth the attempt, but I don’t want people to automatically assume that not hearing anything means success,” he said. “Quebec, Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, all have fall bear seasons right now. They could get taken this fall, but maybe they integrated into the wild and it was worthwhile. Time will tell.”
New Hampshire has roughly 6,100 bears, and a record 898 were killed in last year’s hunt. The problems with bears foraging for food in residential areas in Hanover are years in the making, Timmins said, but the situation has improved after town officials repeatedly visited problem properties and asked residents to secure their garbage and remove bird feeders that attract the animals.
The mother bear wasn’t trapped because she left Hanover to mate. But Timmins said she returned to the area in late August, and the state plans to trap and move her if she returns again with new cubs in the spring.
“Our decision to destroy them wasn’t because that’s what we like to do. Some would say that’s the easy way out, just destroy them,” said Timmins. “But with some of these animals, you put them through less stress and hardship by making that decision … We simply have not had a lot of luck moving bears we consider habituated.”
A spokesman for Sununu did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.